It is that time of year again!
Yes – November! And for some, it’s the month where you grow out a beard with the enthusiasm of all around you in order to raise money for charity; for others, it’s the countdown to Thanksgiving and Good Friday and all that is wrapped up in that; and still others, it’s just the month between Halloween and Xmas that has no purpose but to move past quickly so they can get to the gingerbread and mistletoe. And then there are those of the writing inclination: for us, November is Nanowrimo – that is, National Novel Writing Month (even though, I have realized it isn’t National so much an International, but whatevs.)
For this month, I am participating, which means that by midnight, November 30th I will have written a 50k word novel, or at least have written 50k words that may one day (after multiple revisions and more words) be considered a novel!
I will chart my progress here on the blog on Mondays and Fridays, and since it’s Nano, the days I am not charting my progress I will also post a book review for you guys! On Mondays, I will post a discussion on novel writing things – plot, characterization, how to stay motivated and determined, and such things. And on Fridays, I will go through the number of words I wrote, where I am in lieu of the entirety of the novel and what predictions I can make for the following week.
This Monday’s topic is: Staying Motivated.
So, the pitch convinced you: you heard it on this blog, or another blog or Facebook or one of the othermyriad of ways you could have heard it, and you though to yourself “I like to write – I can totally do this write a book thing! Yeah!” And that initial enthusiasm and excitement trickled over and you wrote words and sentences and paragraphs and hell, even pages of a story that even started to make sense, and as everything started to come together and you were on a roll … BAM!
You hit “it”.
You know what I am talking about – writer’s block. Or worse, you have multiple ideas, even know how you want things to be written, but there’s a niggling little thing that’s stopping you from going at it. It could be something minor like you missed your goal of 1300 words a day, or it could be that as you reread, you noticed spelling errors or plot holes or continuity problems – and now you’re head is all about fixing rather than writing.
I have so been there. In fact, I think I go through something similar to that near every day.
A backtrack, sure, but not incurable.
As such, I have assembled three rules to getting through it for everyone! So let’s get cracking at it!
First: Acknowledge that it happens.
You will sometimes not make word count. Other times, you will suck at getting your point across and will rewrite the same phrase a hundred times before you give up and pour yourself another coffee in frustration. And so on. It happens. It happens, more over, to everyone.
Seriously – everyone has writing blocks, every creative person has blocks – every academic, every banker, every dreamer.
So when you’re at that point where you’re staring at a blank page or a blinking screen, don’t go down that road – don’t start assuming you suck, that you can’t write or that you’re way in over your head – everyone has these times. Everyone.
And if they say they don’t, they’re pretty good at either spinning fiction or deluding themselves.
So buck up, Sunshine. It’s just a consequences of creativity.
Second: Write Anyway.
You read that right: when you’re stuck, write anyway.
Now, that doesn’t mean you don’t get breaks – by all means, take fifteen minutes and go through a blogilate routine, then pour yourself a tea and grab a beignet and settle down to write again. I am saying this is a sort of rambling and cute way, but the message still has weight: don’t give up. You can get through this, as long as you continue writing.
Top tip: Say you can’t write a particular scene, say it’s the lead-up to a cool action sequence that’s been going through your head in rotation ever since you first thought up your story idea. You just can’t go through all that build up to get your character to the point where bullets start flying, or karate chops start slicing, or hell, the multiverse begins crumbling in on itself (themselves? itselves?) – okay, so write it. Write that big action sequence, write it with all the glory and detail that you’ve envisioned. And when you’re done, take a breath, smile at yourself for a job well done and turn back the pages and fill in the stuff you missed – that banal set up bit. It may seem counter intuitive (cart before horse and all that) but it can work.
Another top tip: talk it out. Find a writing buddy or your (very patient) significant other, or your cat, or hey – drop me a line! – and talk it out. Studies have shown by tackling a problem in a different way – orally in this case – can help you work through it. And we want to work through it in order to get to all that glorious writing stuff!
Third: Remind Yourself that this is a Marathon, not a Sprint
Seems pretty basic, not so much.
Everyone is so focused on getting to the end in record time, that we forget that writing is an exercise of endurace, not speed. It takes a while to build on your story, your skills and your voice. And that’s all okay – it should take time. This shouldn’t be a stream-of-consciousness nit-pick of things you hate or a political manifesto that gets the right word count without the message. It’s a craft – it requires thought and patience and encpuragement. Usually, self encouragement.
So remember – you may have hit a wall, but you have time to get around that wall or go through it. You don’t need to write the Great Novel of your Generation right now. You have time, and you should use it.
So … go use it.
Shouldn’t waste time either – you do eventually want to get to that celebratory moment where you can press “save” and have your own masterpiece!
Any tips you have for staying motivated?